Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Canadian Human Rights Commission recommends more censorship

In today’s Opinion editorial in the National Post, Ezra Levant, author of the recent best-seller Shakedown, commented on the recent special report to Parliament submitted by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).  The following is Levant’s Op-Ed as reprinted in his blog, with a few parts in bold which he wanted emphasize:

The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) has given itself another report card. The last one, released in November, 2008, didn't quite work out as planned: Professor Richard Moon, who was paid $50,000 by the CHRC to write a short review of its conduct, surprised everybody by calling for the repeal of the commission's censorship powers.

The CHRC immediately garbaged Moon's report. Its press release accompanying the report didn't even mention Moon's chief recommendation, and announced instead that a do-over review would start immediately. Needless to say, no outsider was trusted to write this one.

It's not surprising that the CHRC gave itself a glowing review this time. But what is remarkable is that, far from being chastened by the public condemnation its bad behaviour has provoked, the CHRC has called for even more censorship in Canada.

The CHRC already has a 100% conviction rate for censorship prosecutions -- no one in 32 years has ever beat the rap. That's not hard to believe when you learn that truth, fair comment and honest belief are not legal defences in human rights hearings -- the commission operates more like a kangaroo court than a real court that way. And look at how vaguely the censorship law is written: Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act says it's an offence to communicate anything "likely to expose a person... to hatred or contempt." The word "likely" is amazing: The CHRC doesn't have to prove you've actually done anything, just that you might in the future. And all they have to prove is that you said something that might cause one person to have hard feelings about another.

So it's not just a speech crime. It's an emotion crime, too.

That's an un-Canadian law, and it's an embarrassment that an organization with the words "human rights" as its middle name would be behind such an attack on our civil liberties.

What's new is the CHRC's suggestion that Canada's Criminal Code be stripped of its free speech protections, too.

Right now, the Criminal Code has a hate speech crime in it. But, unlike the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Criminal Code has important defences built right in. Section 319(3) specifically protects anyone who was telling the truth, or believed what he was saying was true. Religious views are specifically protected, too, as are other defences.

Pesky civil rights -- like the right to speak the truth -- are a big reason why police don't have a 100% hate speech conviction rate like the CHRC does. So in its new report, the CHRC suggests that the defence of truth be removed from the Criminal Code.

How perverse is that? A human rights agency is telling the police to reduce its commitment to civil liberties. Could you imagine a genuine human rights activist -- say, Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King -- calling for more power for the police and less for political dissidents? If a government agency like the CHRC had been around in the United States in the 1960s, or India in the 1940s, is there any doubt that it would have prosecuted King and Gandhi for saying things that "exposed" people to "contempt"?

But that's not all. Like obscenity laws, censorship laws are necessarily vague and subject to abuse by police and prosecutors. So, as an added safety measure, Criminal Code hate speech charges cannot be laid without the personal approval of the Justice Minister. The CHRC calls this an improper "barrier" to prosecutions, and asks that it be removed.

That's not surprising. At the CHRC, there is no oversight --no internal affairs committee, not even a written ethics code.

It's astounding that an organization as dysfunctional as the CHRC would have the hubris to tell Canada's police forces how to do their business. It's depressing that its advice to police forces is to strip protections for civil liberties out of our Criminal Code.

This report is the second PR exercise the CHRC has bought in eight months. It is spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on damage control, including $15,000 to pollster EKOS and $10,000 to lobbyists Hill and Knowlton. Real courts don't spend money on pollsters and spin doctors. But real courts aren't held in as much public disrepute as the CHRC.

We've heard more than enough from the CHRC. It's no longer a civil liberties organization. It's a self-perpetuating industry full of empire-building bureaucrats, global junketeers and political bullies.

Now it's time for Parliament to act. There is multi-partisan support for Parliamentary hearings into the CHRC's censorship powers and its operational misconduct.

When real civil rights groups -- from the B'nai Brith to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association -- say the CHRC is broken, then you know it's time to fix it.

Other comments on this report can be found on Levant’s blog and by Mark Steyn, Debbie Gyapong, and Rob Breakenridge

This is not a minor issue, my friends.  Freedom of expression is at the root of religious liberty and must be defended vigorously.  If you haven’t read Levant’s book yet, you really should do so.  He not only points out the threats that radicalized human rights commissions pose to Canadians today, he also shows how we can change the direction that our country is heading.  And yes, you can still order Ezra Levant’s book from The Voice of the Martyrs.

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